I gCoiste ar an mBille um Bunreacht Shaorstait Eireann. (In Committee on the Constitution of Saorstát Eireann Bill.) - ARTICLE 48.

"Save in the case of actual invasion, the Irish Free State/Saorstát Eireann shall not be committed to active participation in any war without the assent of the Parliament/Oireachtas."


With reference to this clause it is an agreed Article of the Constitution, and we would advise very strongly against any attempt to change it. We think as it stands it is an implied safeguard of the position of the new State with regard to war—that we shall not be committed to actual participation in war without the consent of Parliament. We choose Parliament there in that Article because war is almost invariably a matter of sudden emergency. You have not six or eight months or years' notice of war, but some incident occurs, some tension or strain for a short time, and the war clouds burst. Therefore, the assent of Parliament rather than referendum of the people was chosen by the Government for insertion in that Article.


I beg to move as an amendment:—"To substitute instead of the words ‘without the assent of the Parliament/Oireachtas,' the words ‘without the assent of a majority of the voters on the Register obtained on a Referendum.'"

The Minister for Home Affairs has already brought attention to the amendment. The proposal is the alternative proposal to which he referred, and that is that the actual decision for war should be actually with the people, except in the case of invasion. Warfare of a certain kind has occurred in Ireland to-day, but it is not war within the meaning of the Article. In my judgment and I put it to this Dáil, this Nation would require not to be committed to actual participation in any war which is not a war of invasion, and which, therefore, is a war conducted in some other territory than Ireland, and for some other purpose than a purpose in which Ireland should be primarily and directly interested. The direct voice of the people, yea or nay, should be given in the matter. It is the people's children who will be lost in that war; it is the people who will have to bear the privations of the war, and it is the people will ultimately have to pay the cost of that war. Therefore the decision in that case should be given by the people themselves. Let them decide whether this war outside Ireland is a war in which they desire or do not desire to participate. The decision should be the crowning decision and the ultimate and final decision. In moving that proposal, and bringing it before the attention of the Dáil in order that it may make a final decision, I believe that if the Dáil were to vote in accordance with the amendment in this matter, it would make its decision in accordance with what the people would desire to see done. I do not believe that any Deputy here, if he voted in accordance with what his own people would like to see done, would vote against this amendment, because it means that the people of his constituency and the people of all the constituencies in Ireland would have the direct voice as to whether Ireland should or should not be involved in war. Finally, if this amendment be carried—I ask the Deputies to give this special attention, because they will see exactly what is involved—if this amendment be carried, then the Article would be able to remain, numbered as it is, in this Section 2, Sub-section (e). If the amendment is lost, it will have to be removed to some other place, because you cannot put in a provision giving the decision to the Legislature in a section dealing exclusively with Referendum and Initiative.


A Chinn Chomhairle, the gist of Deputy Figgis' amendment and the statement he made supporting it is to say that until the enemy actually lands on your shore you must not make war or presumably warlike preparations. We consider that there is no matter on which the Government and Parliament are more likely to keep at one with their people than on this matter of peace and war. And to suggest that when you are menaced or when you are gravely wronged that you should solemnly set about and take a Referendum of your people, a Referendum which may last some months and with the enemy looking on, and, so to speak, counting the votes and going ahead with his particular preparations, is to suggest something which when reduced to actual realities, brought face to face with facts, will not stand the strain, and if it is accepted what will happen is that some future Government to save the State must walk through this Constitution, and would be bound in its duty as a Government to do so. Now, there is no use in inserting Articles in this Constitution which in face of facts as we know them, in the face of all probabilities in the future, will not work. No country, no Parliament, is likely to declare war other than a war of defence unless it feels that it has very strongly behind it the support of the people. But you may limit yourself, or you may wish to limit yourself, to these defensive wars, and so, save in the case of actual invasion, there shall be no war at all, for instance. That is something which we may discuss here, but the effect of that would be that it would leave you absolutely at the mercy of a foreign power in the event of an outbreak. You would not be even in the perfect position of home defence. It would put it outside your power, and outside the merits of any world issue, or any international issue. The Parliament that will declare war against the wishes of its people will not last two months having done so.


The war would have been in operation—the war would have been started.


Well, are we dealing with a war here in this country? The expedition would have failed, say, and if the Government and Parliament falls the expedition could be withdrawn presumably.


I mean to say Parliament gets the country into war, then the fat is in the fire and there is no use talking about retrieving one's self.


Well, I think there is sufficient political sense in this country to see if the majority of Parliament —of both Houses—talks war there would be a lot to be said for that war. You are not now contemplating the case of a transitional or Provisional Government compelled to take certain action believed to be in the best interests of the State; to prevent steps being taken which would mean no Parliament being held in Ireland at all. But you are considering the case of a future Parliament sitting here, and by Deputy Figgis's amendment you are putting it outside the power of that Parliament to decide the issue of peace or war. You are saying you must go out through the country and set up elaborate machinery and take the opinion of the man in the street, of the man in the shop, of the man in the field, of the man in the workshop on this issue. Well, if you can have that adopted in all countries it might be a very good thing, but if you adopt it here and if it is not adopted in other countries then you are bringing about a state of affairs where you have the dogs tied and the stones loose and you will regret it.


My amendment on this subject is met by the amendment of Deputy Figgis. Therefore there is no need for me to move my amendment. But I think we have to bear in mind in considering this proposal the possibilities of the future, as well as the probabilities of the future. The war that is contemplated is not a war of defence against invasion. That is covered already by the Article as it stands. The war that is to be guarded against is a war overseas, is a war that this country may be drawn into by Parliament, by the will of Parliament perhaps, at the instigation of perhaps Canada, or perhaps Australia, or perhaps South Africa, or perhaps Great Britain, and the last is very much the more likely. This Parliament will probably change its character. We need not have very long memories to know how the elected of the people a very few years ago enthusiastically backed a war overseas. That might easily happen again, very easily happen again. If the "Daily Mail," for instance, changed its tune and increased its circulation in Ireland, or if the "Daily Mail" got hold of the "Independent" and conducted a war campaign throughout Ireland in favour of some small nationality across the sea, it is not at all an improbable thing that this country might be drawn into it. It is not at all an improbable thing that a Parliament led by a Government which was closely associated with Imperialistic interests, capitalistic interests, oil interests—if this country prospers—may be drawn into war by the will of the Parliament against the will of the people. There is no question of calling for a Referendum in a case of invasion. But whether we like it or not, entering into an association of Nations, some of which are very Imperialistic, very Imperialistic indeed—take New Zealand, for instance—this may happen, and it is a grave possibility, a very likely thing indeed, that in case of a war which might be defended on pretexts meant to incite the enthusiasm of Parliament, the people who would be called upon to pay the piper, both in blood and treasure, would be opposed to it. I think we ought at this stage safeguard the country from being manoeuvred into a war by possibly a reactionary Government and possibly a reactionary Parliament in the future, swept off its feet by newspaper propaganda. You may say the people are more likely to be swept off their feet than Parliament. I admit it; but at least it is an additional safeguard. If Parliament does not want to enter into a war, then there would be no need for this Referendum. But if Parliament is enthusiastic for war, and the people are against it, then the people should be the deciding factor. On the question of the machinery, I think the Ministers must bear in mind that, having provided for a Referendum, and having provided for the Initiative or possibilities of the Initiative, there will necessarily be machinery provided for taking those votes rapidly, and to speak of this hanging over the country for months is simply playing with the question. You will have to provide machinery for taking a Referendum perhaps within a fortnight, perhaps even within a week, and it will always have to be ready for action, so we should not let our minds be swayed by a thing like this —by arguments of the impracticability of taking a Referendum in the case of war. The war will not be imminent. The thing will not be imminent unless Parliament and the Government are anxious for war, and we are to guard the country against the possibility that Parliament might be swayed by overseas capitalistic interests, or, on the plea of humanitarian impulse, be driven into a war overseas against the will of the people and at the price of the people's treasures and the people's blood.


I think this is a case essentially for looking at the two sides. It is admitted there should be a check on the desire, which a Government or an Executive might have for involving a country in a war and that check, I think, is quite sufficiently provided for by making the assent of Parliament necessary. If we were to go further, I think, we would be going too far, because while it is desirable to avoid war, I think there was truth in a couplet I once saw somewhere:—

"Thrice is he armed who has his quarrel just,

"But four times is he who gets his blow in first."


I would like to ask if the mover of the amendment suggests that in the case of actual invasion a Referendum should be taken as well as whether the invasion should be resisted or not? Is that implied in the amendment?


I think not.


I think I will answer that by saying that it is specifically excluded, for the Article reads: "save in the case of actual invasion the Free State shall not be permitted to participate in any war without the assent of a majority of the voters on the Register obtained on a Referendum." That does not preclude in any way warlike preparations. When the Minister used these words, "presumable warlike preparations," I think, with great respect for the Minister's intelligence, I will not elaborate the point, but simply say it was not worthy. There is nothing whatever to preclude all the warlike preparations required or that may be required at any moment to defend—or "shall not be permitted to act or participate in any warlike preparations." With regard to the further argument, that it would take months to obtain a Referendum, I may say that the practice in countries where the Referendum is employed, that from the decision to hold the Referendum until the obtaining of the final result, in most countries, is not more than 7 days. He also said that no Parliament is likely to conduct war unless it has the support of the people. That has been stated a thousand times from different platforms in this country, and the people of this country believed it when the representatives of the people in 1914 did commit this nation to war, which the nation did not at that time desire.


And which we are bound to pay for under this Treaty.


And we will have to pay for it under this Treaty. It is a historical fact in the States, in 1917, that the President of the United States was elected on a peace ticket, with the entire consent of the American people for avoiding participation in that war. Within three months he committed the nation to that war. It is always happening. I stand on the principle that the only people entitled to commit a nation to war are the people who will have to pay and who will have to send their sons to it. I move the amendment with all the greater emphasis because I believe if this amendment were put to the people of this country there would be an overwhelming majority in its favour.


One thing that strikes me on the question of a Referendum in connection with the outbreak of war is that Switzerland in the great European War succeeded in keeping clear all the time. It is the only country that, I take it, according to its Constitution, would have to have the matter decided by the people. I think that is a very strong argument in favour of a Referendum to the people directly, when Switzerland was able to keep free, although situated in the centre of, and surrounded by neighbours who were engaged in it.

There are cases, I think, in which it might not be possible or easy to get this Referendum into operation within a given period. I have a recollection of the late war, just before the outbreak of hostilities, on the part of one of the high contracting parties, as they call themselves. I think when Russia commenced to mobilise the Germans informed them that if they did not cease mobilising they would invade Russia within twenty-four hours. If Germany did not take the initiative on that occasion, I think Germany would have lost. If Germany had waited for a Referendum her position would have been deplorable in a very short time. Warlike preparations such as have been indicated by Deputy Figgis would in essence be a declaration of war. Other nations are not going to look on when your preparations are being conducted, without seeing the real intention that is behind the nation, or arming and so making such preparations. When Deputies speak of the people having to be consulted they apparently forget that the Parliament in this case is in very close association with the people, understands the need of the situation, and are in a position to feel exactly the pulse of the people in a matter of that sort, and it is unlikely that a Parliament constituted as this one is, devised under a Constitution so democratically fashioned, would for a moment embark on a war which would not have the support of the people behind it. There appears to be a certain democratic sanction for asking the consent of the people in those cases; there appears to be a great case for getting every nation to accept the same principle with regard to it. But you would hazard, to a very great extent, the integrity of this nation if you were to impose on those responsible to the people, on those authorised by the people to govern, selected by the people at elections, obligations which other nations do not accept. For that reason I think until there is a more general acceptance by other people who are likely to engage in a war of the principle of consulting the people that you ought not to take any risks with regard to the defences of the nation. It is most unlikely that this country, placed as it is, would be rushed into a war by this Parliament. But it would be very unwise, having regard to the isolated position of the nation, that other nations would have the idea that Ireland could not be in a position to maintain itself in a war for at least a week after other nations had begun warlike operations. For that reason—for the common security for which Parliament is responsible —no risk should be taken in a matter of this sort merely to establish the principle which, although others may recognise, they do not give loyal support to.


A good many of the points made by the President are made by the Prime Ministers and by the statesmen of every other so-called democratic country. There is not, I think, any head of any State but will claim that the Parliament of that State and the Executive of that State are in the closest possible touch with the people who will have to pay for the war. It is true of England, America, Germany, Russia, France, and of every State. No matter how democratic or undemocratic the Government and the Executive, if the Government is in favour of war they always take that point of view. We have had our own experience here in Ireland, and it has been the universal experience, that representatives may be elected on particular specific issues to the National Legislature— their mandate may not be exhausted or it may be nearly exhausted, when an issue arises of this nature. I do not think there is anybody who is supporting either of these two amendments who would want this thing to apply in case of invasion or to apply to the preparations to defeat invasions. The case of Germany and Russia is not a case in point, because the German Executive saw the mobilisation of the Russians against Germany, but instead of bursting abroad into Russia, the Germans, of course, did a burst in on the other side of the Continent altogether. If the Ministry has any objection to this amendment their objection must be that they foresee wars abroad, because there is nobody in the Dáil proposing that this should be done, in case of invasion or potential invasion, nobody at all. Both Deputy Johnson's amendment and Deputy Darrell Figgis's amendment leave the first part of the Article to stand, save in case of actual invasion, and we are not so stupid as to interpret that as meaning a landing at Cobh or somewhere else, of a body of troops. But there is a possibility—it might be slight —that there is a valid objection to the preparation for war in this thing or to the amendment. Whoever is objecting to it has a conception of a war abroad. I mistake the Irish people if the body of the Irish people at any time now or in the future are going to shed a single drop of Irish blood in any war abroad. Remember that our relations and the relations of this Executive and of this Dáil to Great Britain, in two or three years, may not be the gingerly sensitive relations that they are at the moment. Remember that it is a possibility that one of the States of the Commonwealth, most likely that of Great Britain, may be able to make up to the Executive the position they made up to a good many people abroad, that a war abroad would be for the interests of the whole Commonwealth and therefore it would be a war in the interest and in the defence of this component part of the British Commonwealth. But Deputy Figgis is quite right that there is not any question at all on which, if the people were asked at this moment, or in my opinion for several years to come, to say Aye or No. think the overwhelming majority of the people, no matter what respect they have for the Executive—not even if Moses himself were leading the Executive—would not willingly vote Aye for a war that would involve the life and blood and treasure of the Irish people. Take even the present position of the Turks, the near Eastern position, it is quite a possibility, though it might seem a big flight of the imagination, that Great Britain would call upon the Governments of all the Dominions as she has done in the case of some to join in a war against Kemal Pasha. Does any man in this Dáil think that there is a single Irish citizen who would want to send a single young Irishman out to fight the war of the oil owners against Kemal Pasha or anybody else? Not a man in the Dáil would say that such would be done. Anybody who knows anything about the issues that lead to these big international wars knows that there are people working behind the scenes who can get a combination of States, in the interests of certain classes in these States, who upon this issue are not willing to say "No." Everybody on this side of the Dáil, at all events, will oppose, tooth and nail, any Executive, at any time, that will want to keep back from the people this direct reference of the question of war, save in the case of invasion or preparations for invasion.


Táim go mór in agha an leas-rúin seo, mar ceapaim gur mór an masla é d'aon Oireachtas atá le teacht a bhéas toghtha ag muintir na hEireann, toghtha ar bhótaí dhaoine fasta na tíre seo, leas-rún mar seo do ghlaca. Táim cinnte na rachaidh aon Oireachtas toghtha ag muintir na hEireann isteach i gcogadh ar thoil Shasana. Tá fhios againn go maith nach ngéillfidh Oireachtas Gaedhealach do rud ar bith a fheileas do mhuintir Shasana, mar is é séan a dtíre féin, agus sin amháin, a bhéas ag déanamh imní dhóibh. Ní bheidh baol ar bith go mbeidh an tír seo tugtha isteach in aon chogadh ar thoil daoine taobh amuich d'Eirinn nuair atá an cheist ar ár n-Oireachtas féin le socrú. Tá fhios againn go maith go bhfuil sé easgaidh go minic an sluagh do chorruí agus cogadh a tharraing ar thír. Féachaidh ar rud do thuit amach san Iodáil nuair do bhí cogadh mór ar siubhal. Tá fhios againn go bhfuil sé a bhfad nios fusa an tír do tharraing isteach i dtroid ar thoil an tsluaigh ná ar thoil na Pairliminte, agus dá bhrí sin, ní mholaim an leas-rún seo.

I am strongly opposed to the amendment of Deputy Figgis, because I think the proposal of such an amendment is casting a great slur upon any future Parliament to be elected by the Irish people upon adult suffrage. I maintain there is a far greater danger of swaying a mob in favour of war than there is in the case of a deliberative Assembly. That happened in the case of Italy, where the Italian people were drawn into war by the action of the mob in Italy. It is easy to incite a mob, and it is mobs that move Parliaments and not Parliaments that move mobs. I take it that, in future, an Irish Parliament elected here in Ireland will not be tempted in the slightest degree by English interests, because we do not want English dictation in this country. There is not the slightest danger of dragging this country into any war abroad or into any war outside Ireland by leaving the Irish Parliament, which is elected on adult suffrage, to judge the issue for itself; and I think this amendment, proposed here, weakens our case, and makes the participation of Ireland in any war abroad a bigger danger. I do not think there is the slightest danger, but by the adoption of this amendment you add to the danger, instead of leaving to the free choice of the Irish Parliament, elected by the Irish people themselves. Those Parliaments will not get stale, because they will be in constant touch with the Irish people, and there is not the slightest danger of an Irish Parliament being dragged into a war in opposition to the will of the Irish people.


I want to remind the Dáil of a case in point in recent history showing how easy it is for war fever to rage in high places while the infection does not catch the people. It is a case of conscription, not a case of the declaration of war, but I think it is very analogous. You remember that during the great war the Prime Minister of Australia, who is a very popular man, wanted to have conscription. If my memory serves me, he had not only his Executive warmly with him, but he had Parliament as well. The matter had to be submitted to a Referendum and the Referendum decisively rejected conscription. A great deal of propaganda was done in the ensuing year in favour of war and there was another Referendum on the same question. In spite of the advocacy of the big men in the country, the voice of the common people decisively rejected conscription. The two cases you may say are not the same, but I think the principle is the same. The people would have been committed to conscription except for the fact that the Executive had to apply for their sanction by Referendum.


Nothing that has been said in the course of this Debate has altered our attitude upon this particular Article. We feel that the assent of Parliament, by which is meant both Houses, is a sufficient safeguard, and we believe and hope that the collective judgment of Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann in the future will be sufficient to pronounce rightly upon any issue of peace or war that may arise. There was mention here of the war of 1914. We all know that the late John Redmond and his immediate followers were not in that relation to the Irish people that they would have been if there was a Parliament at the time functioning here in Ireland. They were, and had been for a considerable time, divorced from the people. Not a single one of them was in close contact with his constituents, and not a single one of them stood in the peculiarly intimate relation to their constituents and people as a whole that they would have been in if there had been a Parliament in the country responsible to the people. There was mention, too, of the President of America. The President of America has very considerable powers, little short of the power of declaring war upon his own. He can certainly bring things to a point when war is inevitable, and he can then make a present of the situation to those that have very little choice of the decision they will take. One Deputy spoke of Switzerland and of the Referendum there, and of how Switzerland, almost in a miraculous manner, preserved her neutrality during the late European War. And he hinted, if he did not state, that that was all due to the Referendum. But the fact is that Switzerland, which has a Referendum upon many other questions, has no Referendum on this particular issue, and I think it is because it is appreciated there that situations may arise, and are more likely to arise, on matters of peace and war than, perhaps, on other matters, where Parliament must act immediately upon its own judgment. I think it was a British naval man—the late Lord Fisher—that said: "In time of war you must hit first, hit hard, and hit anywhere." That hitting may be necessary in the future in Ireland to safeguard this State, and we should not tie the hands of the Parliament. We must not put the Irish Parliament of the future in a position where the enemy—or even a potential enemy—could be using its home waters and harbours because the votes were not yet counted, and give them another two or three days because we have still to count the votes of the Referendum.


The Swiss analogy fails, because by international agreement Switzerland cannot send any of its soldiers abroad; further, the other quotation from the late Lord Fisher is, perhaps, very appropriate. The arguments adduced are exactly the kind of arguments that "Jackie" Fisher would have used.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 42.

  • Pádraig Ó Gamhna.
  • Uaitéar Mac Cúmhaill.
  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Riobárd Ó Deaghaidh.
  • Liam de Róiste.
  • Darghal Figes.
  • Tomás Mac Eóin.
  • Seoirse Ghabhain Uí Dhubhthaigh.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Tomás Ó Conaill.
  • Séamus Eabhróid.
  • Liam Ó Daimhin.
  • Seán Ó Laidhin.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.


  • Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
  • Donchadh Ó Gúaire.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Micheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Domhnall Ó Mocháin.
  • Seán Ó hAodha.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Micheál de Duram.
  • Ailfrid Ó Broin.
  • Domhnall Mac Cartaigh.
  • Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
  • Éarnan Altún.
  • Sir Séamus Craig.
  • Gearóid Mac Giobuin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Pádraic Ó Máille.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileachain.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Piaras Béaslaí.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Séamus Ó Cruadhlaoich.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Risteard Mac Liam.
  • Caoimhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Tomás Mac Ártúir.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Aindriu Ó Laimhín.
  • Proinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Seosamh Mac Giolla Bhrighde.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Tomás Ó Domhnaill.
  • Éarnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de .
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.
  • Séamus de Burca.
  • Micheál Ó Dubhghaill.


Pádraig Ó Gamhna.Uaitéar Mac Cúmhaill.Tomás de Nógla.Riobárd Ó Deaghaidh.Liam de Róiste.Darghal Figes.Tomás Mac Eóin.Seoirse Ghabhain Uí Dhubhthaigh.Liam Ó Briain.Tomás Ó Conaill.Séamus Eabhróid.Liam Ó Daimhin.Seán Ó Laidhin.Cathal Ó Seanáin.Seán Buitléir.Nioclás Ó Faoláin.Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.Risteárd Mac Fheorais.Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.

Liam T. Mac Cosgair.Donchadh Ó Gúaire.Seán Ó Maolruaidh.Seán Ó Duinnín.Micheál Ó hAonghusa.Domhnall Ó Mocháin.Seán Ó hAodha.Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.Seán Ó Ruanaidh.Micheál de Duram.Ailfrid Ó Broin.Domhnall Mac Cartaigh.Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.Éarnan Altún.Sir Séamus Craig.Gearóid Mac Giobuin.Liam Thrift.Liam Mag Aonghusa.Pádraic Ó Máille.Seosamh Ó Faoileachain.Seoirse Mac Niocaill.Piaras Béaslaí.Fionán Ó Loingsigh.Séamus Ó Cruadhlaoich.Criostóir Ó Broin.Risteard Mac Liam.Caoimhghin Ó hUigín.Tomás Mac Ártúir.Séamus Ó Dóláin.Aindriu Ó Laimhín.Proinsias Mag Aonghusa.Eamon Ó Dúgáin.Peadar Ó hAodha.Séamus Ó Murchadha.Seosamh Mac Giolla Bhrighde.Liam Mac Sioghaird.Tomás Ó Domhnaill.Éarnán de Blaghd.Uinseann de .Domhnall Ó Broin.Séamus de Burca.Micheál Ó Dubhghaill.

Motion made and question put:—"That Article 48 stand part of the Bill."
Agreed to.